Ben Holladay was born in Kentucky and raised in Weston, Missouri.
Ben Holladay furnished supplies to General Stephen Kearny's Army of the West in the War with Mexico, and to General A. W. Doniphan. General Doniphan had befriended the Latter Day Saints in their troubles in Missouri in the 1830s. He wrote a letter of introduction for Ben Holladay to Brigham Young in Utah. Through his career as a freighter, stagecoach king and Pony Express sponsor he did a huge business in Utah.
Holladay had lent the Pike's Peak stables to Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Company and at the very beginning of the Pony Express had purchased feed for the ponies in far away California on credit. His cousin Bela M. Hughes, Saint Joseph banker, was elected president of the Central Overland company in Leavenworth April 24. 1861, and then as creditor, Ben Holladay effectively controlled the company for large sums he had advanced it.
In 1866 he sold his half west to Salt Lake City to Wells Fargo & Company for a huge sum. He owned steamship lines in the Pacific but his financial undoing came when he lost control of his Oregon Central Railroad on the Black Friday stock exchange panic of 1873. He was sixy-eight when he died in Portland, Oregon in 1887.